ORLANDO, Florida (AP) — An associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz’s is working toward a plea deal with federal prosecutors investigating a sex trafficking operation, potentially escalating the legal and political jeopardy facing the Florida congressman.
The revelation that a political ally of Gaetz’s, Joel Greenberg, is seeking to strike a plea deal with investigators came during a hearing Thursday at federal court in Orlando.
It’s a significant step in the case and signals that Greenberg could potentially serve as a witness in the Justice Department’s investigation into Gaetz.
“I am sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” Fritz Scheller, a lawyer for Greenberg, said after the hearing.
When asked directly if Greenberg, a former local tax collector outside Orlando, was cooperating with prosecutors on the Gaetz case, Scheller cited attorney-client privilege.
But he said Greenberg’s cooperation would likely be contingent on whether it was required by prosecutors to get a plea deal.
“If someone signs a cooperation agreement, they are required to cooperate,” Scheller told reporters outside the federal courthouse in Orlando.
Federal prosecutors are examining whether Gaetz and Greenberg paid underage girls or offered them gifts in exchange for sex, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because they could not discuss details publicly.
Gaetz has denied the allegations and insists he will not resign his seat in Congress.